Litter strategy - five years on: review

Review of our national litter strategy "Towards a litter free Scotland: a strategic approach to higher quality local environments,” published in 2014.

Executive Summary

In June 2014, the Scottish Government published the country's first National Litter Strategy "Towards a Litter Free Scotland: A Strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments." A review of this Strategy was completed in November 2019 by Scottish Government with Zero Waste Scotland and other key partners. This review identifies areas of success of the Strategy, good practice case studies and the Steering Group's initial view on what the focus could be for future strategy development.

Publication of the review was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, this review provides a snapshot of activities that took place within the first five years of this strategy and does not reflect challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, nor action taken to address litter and flytipping since November 2019.

The 2014 Strategy committed to take forward wide-ranging action under the following three themes:

  • Information - improving sources, consistency and nature of messages

Helping people to understand why litter and flytipping is a problem and what is expected of them.

  • Infrastructure - improving facilities and services to reduce litter and promote recycling

Providing people with alternative options for their waste and the means to take action individually and in collaboration.

  • Enforcement - strengthening the deterrent effect of enforcement

Reminding people that littering and flytipping are criminal offences and committing them carries a consequence.

Within each of these themes, activity was further divided into twelve interventions, which aimed to deliver five outcomes. These outcomes were to: (1) improve environmental quality, (2) encourage greater individual responsibility, (3) realise economic potential of wasted littered and flytipped material, (4) improve coordination of partners and services, and (5) provide value for money by increasing cost effectiveness of public services.

The review highlights that significant progress has been made and identifies key successes. However, it also recognises that litter and flytipping still pose a significant challenge that requires further concerted action; and identifies opportunities for potential future action.


During the five year life-span of the National Litter Strategy, review participants identified a wide range of work that has been undertaken by Scottish Government in partnership with other organisations to reduce litter and flytipping. The activities outlined below are just some of the examples of positive action taken.

The Strategy provided a shift in focus from clearing up to preventing litter by running communications and education opportunities to motivate behaviour change. The award winning upstream battle developed by Keep Scotland Beautiful and #DrainCampaign launched by Sunnyside Primary School are just two examples of such efforts.

The National Litter Strategy set out to provide formal guidance to organisations on what their roles and responsibility are in relation to litter and flytipping. In 2018, The Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse was updated to provide statutory bodies with the flexibility to widen their focus from clearing litter and refuse to focusing on prevention.

Efforts have been made to increase opportunities for and promote reuse or recycling to reduce litter and make it easier for people to dispose of their waste responsibility. In May 2020, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to establish Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme which will make encourage the public to recycle single-use drinks containers which are commonly littered.

A new litter monitoring system was developed in collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful, APSE and a number of local authorities. This new method will allow spatial data to be collected on amount and types of litter found to better inform preventative action and help with future policy development.

Alongside action to prevent litter and flytipping, the strategy included interventions to strengthen the enforcement system. In 2015, new fixed penalty powers were granted to SEPA to tackle low-level noncompliance with waste legislation, including flytipping.

Future opportunities

Feedback from stakeholders during the review process noted that, since the strategy was published in 2014, the landscape within which the strategy operates has altered significantly and this should be reflected in future policy development. Review participants emphasised the importance of learning from successes to date, and continuing to take bold and ambitious action to address the ongoing challenges Scotland is facing in regards to litter and flytipping.

Participants suggested that a new strategy should take into account existing commitments and frame littered and flytipped materials within the context of leakage to the circular economy and contributing to the climate crisis. Litter and flytipping also need to be considered in a social context, including impact to health and wellbeing.

Data collection, monitoring and evaluation will also be important as we move forward to assess effectiveness of the work carried out. Any future strategy will need to include measurable outcomes, a timeline for action and an ongoing means of measuring and monitoring overall progress.


The review of Scotland's first National Litter Strategy demonstrated that wide-ranging collaborative work has been carried out across Scotland to tackle the issue of litter and flytipping, However, it confirmed that littering and flytipping are deep rooted problems that require a refreshed approach and further sustained, coordinated and collaborative action; and identified potential priorities for future strategy development.

Since the review was completed, Scottish Government has continued to work with partners to address littering and flytipping, including action to tackle challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent actions include ongoing advice for the public on how to manage their waste responsibly, a national communications campaign on littering and work to tackle illegal waste operators. Scottish Government has also recently engaged with stakeholders through a flytipping roundtable and a Litter Summit to better understand how priorities have shifted since the publication of the original strategy and in context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2021, Scottish Government committed to develop a refreshed National Litter and Flytipping Strategy to allow separation of these two issues. It is important that collaborative work continues to deliver this new strategy Scottish Government will work with key partners to develop the strategy and identify system-wide action to drive further progress on litter and flytipping, taking account of the findings of this review.



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